Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards – System Mastery 61


Someone must have really liked our review of the movie, because the demand for this was pretty high.  Today we present Wizards: the RPG.  The game that finally tells us the name of the movie’s famous horseballs (which we reject because they are called horseballs).

10 responses to “Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards – System Mastery 61

  1. The point of slow healing isn’t to punish the player or to role-play out months in a hospital bed (unless you’re playing Prime Directive). The point is to let player decisions matter beyond just the end of the current fight. You’re constantly making decisions and evaluating risks, and eventually you lose, and that needs to matter for a little while if the players are supposed to care about making decisions in the future.

    If you get super messed up in the first fight, then that changes how you have to act after that point. Maybe you can’t afford to be as reckless. Maybe you switch to diplomacy mode. Maybe the front-line fighter has to hang out in the back for a while, where it’s safer. The point is that you’re doing something different now, because your earlier decisions have a lasting consequence.

    Maybe you spend two sessions with the mechanical equivalent of having one arm tied behind your back, and that’s a fun change of pace for a little while, but then the quest/mission/arc is done and you do the time skip and you’re back up to full until the next time you get over-confident.

    • A month isn’t an unreasonable or meaningless amount of time. It’s just long enough that you can’t put everything on hold until you recover, because the villain-of-the-week will accomplish something terrible if you do, but it’s short enough that the characters won’t have substantially changed by the end of it.

      Even if you take a month off after every quest/mission/arc, then you can still play that character for dozens of sessions before it’s aged to the point where it doesn’t fit your character concept anymore.

    • This works way better in FATE where the consequence is a literal consequence slot, and is just a tool that can be used against you, than in several of the games we’ve read, which either ban you outright from adventuring when sufficiently wounded (the aforementioned Prime Directive) or make it so that you get worse if you do anything other than the requisite bed rest. In this game in particular, the feeling one gets on reading the HP healing system and the standard player HP total is that life is supposed to be cheap and you shouldn’t expect your character to survive two fights in a week. Which is honestly also a fine way to run a game, just not our personal favorite.

    • The problem with healing times is that you only ever see them in systems where you also get punished for being hurt. Usually in terms of dice penalties to all actions, not even just physical ones, in degrees of severity to how hurt you are. What this means is that if I have a game where one guy made an Up-Close Fightsman, one guy had a Ranged Fightsman, and one guy made a Party Face; a system with ridiculous healing times will always end up screwing the Up-Close Fightsman. Always. And only from that one silo of skill. If the Party Face gets into a heated debate and starts to lose, he doesn’t then have to wait a month before he can talk to people again because his ego is bruised (haHA!). In addition, with the stacked penalties on Up-Close Fightsman, even if he wanted to then participate in a diplomatic resolution, he would be worthless at it. While the occasional use of injury for dramatic tension can be super interesting and memorable, like a John McClane/Die Hard situation, but if every encounter can effectively take one player out of the action for the rest of the session or longer, then your game is bad. It’s the game punishing a player for playing the type of character he wants to play.

      • Sure, there’s definitely an issue if the rules disproportionately hurt one character type, but there’s no reason why that needs to be the case.

        AD&D had pretty slow healing (if nobody wanted to play a priest), with no penalties (aside from increased risk of death), and that worked out okay. Fighters were on the front line, but they also had the highest AC and the most HP, so they didn’t run through their HP significantly faster than the mage or thief did. You’d get worn down after a few fights, but if it takes two weeks to walk from point A to point B, then everyone has 14hp back.

        Early Shadowrun had slow healing, with universal penalties to all skills, and that also mostly worked out okay. Granted, it basically worked out to aborting the mission if anyone took a serious wound, but the fighter types were tough enough that they were unlikely to get hurt that badly, and the face types were unlikely to be targeted while the fighters were still up (they’re not going to pull out a light pistol and try to shoot at anything scary unless the fighter is there to draw its attention), so no one character type suffered more than anyone else.

        Both systems could theoretically take someone out of the game in every encounter, but neither system had anything like a Challenge Rating system, so it was just up to the GM to not throw overpowered enemies at you. And honestly, as a GM, it’s way easier to design encounters in a slow-healing system because you don’t need every encounter to be potentially-lethal in order for it to matter; you can still have an exciting fight against some lower-level chumps, and the players can worry if they get hit a few times, because they know that’s going to make things harder for them later on. Contrast that with a fast-healing system, where anything that isn’t entirely lethal becomes a non-event by the next day.

      • D&D isn’t generally a good one to point to since it is basically THE game where you don’t care about natural healing times. Between PC healers, NPC healers, potions of healing, wands of healing and so on; there are very few instances where a party of adventurers would ever have to care about the rate of natural healing. And, as you pointed out, there is no penalty for HP loss. The game isn’t really designed to simulate injury or recuperation. It was more resource management with HP being one of many resources.

        Amusingly enough, when I just tried to look up what Shadowrun’s healing time rules were, the first result was a thread with someone saying how annoying the heal time rules were. In that scenario, you still have easy access to healing, if limited. You can have a shaman and first aid but only once per wound. So the penalty is mostly like the early “press your luck” style of risk/reward management. Do you keep going and try to get more treasure/hack the gibson? Or do you say “good enough” and leave maybe to return? That’s fine for that type of game. If you play something like a spy thriller where you need to stop Dr. Nutbag from blowing up the ocean, you don’t really have the option of packing it in and coming back in 4 months once you’re healed up.

        Which is why the ridiculous heal times are totally unnecessary. The difference between healing one wound in 2 months and healing entirely in one week isn’t really all that different if you’ve got something on the line that needs dealing with. What it does do is make it so that plot lines that aren’t urgent suddenly have to be put on hold for lengths of time because nobody wants to be the useless guy tagging along or the people dragging along the useless guy. I’m not saying that healing times should be abolished or anything but the combo of high lethality, low/no access to healing, and long natural heal times that always pops up in “realistic” games makes for a system where everything is a binary of “Fine” or “Out of the action”.

      • That and at a certain point the math of healing becomes unnecessary in a game like that. Instead of a complex system of the numbers of hit points regained if meeting X criteria over Y days of bedrest or weeks while carrying Z loads, why not just say “Your character risks being killed if he continues on this adventure, or he can bow out of this adventure and survive?” The specific number of days is academic. The calculation of them is pure nerdery. Even if you were in an adventure where like “The count will detonate the moon in 17 days, but it’ll take you 19 days to heal!” was interesting once, it’d get stupid if that sort of month-long macguffin was the game’s regular feature.

  2. I gotta say, I thought you guys were trying to pull another one over on me like Duckman (which, by the way, was NOT posted on April 1st!!!). So imagine my surprise when I look it up and find out that this is a real thing. Wow. Just wow.

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